Former television legend Michael Willesee has constructed a chapel at his Sydney home. That’s wild enough, but the television playboy and leviathan punter invites Cardinal George Pell, AFL-worshipping head of the Sydney archdiocese, to officiate at private masses.

At these bizarre religious events, there is a congregation of two — Willesee and his third partner, Jordana, a Croatian-Australian who used to work in Channel Nine’s make-up department. Sydney parishioners are wondering whether Pell receives an emolument for his services but are confident, if he is paid, the money is put into funds to ease the suffering of the poor.

Willesee’s re-embrace of the One True Faith took place in the 1990s and it has led him to some weird and wonderful places.

Perhaps the most extraordinary was his documentary on Christian miracles filmed largely in South America. There were dramatic scenes of “real” blood oozing from religious icons, a woman bearing the marks of stigmata on her hands and feet and other wizardry performed by people easily recognizable as either charlatans or shamans. While former hard-headed colleagues at Nine fell around laughing,

Willesee emerged from the film-making experience more committed to Catholicism than ever before. For his services to the faith — and his healthy financial donations — he was presented to the Pope during his World Youth Day visit to Sydney in July.

Peter Fray

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